Book Review: Hello from the Gillespies
ashley | Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney was another ARC granted to me thanks to Net Galley and Penguin Books. I was intrigued by the premise, I was loosely curious about what truths this end-of-the-year letter would reveal and how an entire novel could be written around it. Why of all fictional families would I want to read a recap of this family’s year? Going into this, I could see two very clear results: I would be swept up in the drama of the family and love this book or I would find it utterly redundant. I decided to risk it and see where I ended up.
For me, things started off a bit rocky. Angela seemed far too critical and judgemental of her four children, cutting apart their lives and caring far too much about what her newsletter list would think about the image of her family she presented everyone with. All of her worries and insecurities about her children, her husband, her family, her life came pouring out in this therapeutic letter, and all of these worries were so condescending and judgemental.
There’s a thin line between a mother’s natural worry and blatant annoyance at her lack of control or involvement in her grown children’s lives and I was scared that McInerney was coming up on the wrong side of it. I was irritated by the narration. I was frustrated. But I realized quickly that I wasn’t the only one frustrated. Angela was struggling. She was tired of putting on that fake smile, of bringing forth her cheerful voice to write about her perfect family and their great life because things weren’t perfect. Not right now. And she was growing more and more tired of pretending it was. She needed to let everything she has been bottling up out into the open, set herself free. She never intended for anyone to see it, but if that were the case, we wouldn’t have a novel here, would we. Things were starting to look up.
Not that I would wish public humiliation on anyone, but the Gillespie’s seem like they needed the blunt smack of reality to wake them up from the personal pity party they were each having. Each member of the family was so wrapped up in their own problems and egos that they were distancing themselves from the one thing that would solve all their problems – each other. There was such a poor line of communication between everyone, such a misunderstanding that could have so easily been avoided. I couldn’t actually bring myself to feel sorry for them and their troubles because they do nothing but wallow in their sorrow. Until that letter gets sent and a fire starts burning under them all again.
A lot happens in this book. Almost too much. I kept thinking that the story was close to ending many times far before the story actually ended because I didn’t think there could possibly be any more drama happening in this book. And then in some cruel act of karma, somewhere around the middle of the book, you’re thrown a giant curve ball. Honestly, part of me was wondering if things were heading in this direction, only because I was so badly trying to figure out why all these events were happening and I wasn’t even half way through yet. And when it was revealed that I was right, I actually let out an audible sigh.
I’m not sure if I was disappointed because I was right and that means the book was predictable, or if I was disappointed because it seemed like so many different things were happening, like every single dramatic scenario you can think of for a family has happened in this book so far and it was starting to feel like overkill.
But I did like how this situation allowed the family to reconnect with their mother and I enjoyed watching Angela and Nick fall in love again, like everything was brand new. It was a good way to revive everyone’s appreciation for their mother and give her the rest, relaxation and love that she seemed to be missing and craving. The last half of the book gave me more of a response for each character, too. I didn’t care much about their outcomes initially but I definitely grew to love them and was happy with how things ended.
Like life, this book was a whole lot of up and down for me. I like what McInerney was trying to do, I’m just not sure it really worked out as well as it could have. I guess it was very realistic; the recounted events were those of mundane everyday life and the time rolled by at a leisurely pace, as it would on a station house in the middle of the outback. You really get a sense of what their lives were like and what drama plagued the family. There were parts I really enjoyed and then other points I questioned why I was even reading this. A lot of good, strong elements individually but I guess it just didn’t really work for me as a whole.
Hello from the Gillespies is the perfect example of how life can be a bit too much and sometimes you just need to forget yourself for a little while. This is available November 7.